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The Gentle German

BMW Motorcycle Road Trip


There is nothing like the sound of a powerful BMW motorcycle roaring along the open road. It is an exhilarating feeling, and a great way to encounter the magnificent scenery of our diverse country, as Julie Graham recently experienced.


I have always found the thrill of being on the back of a motorcycle appealing: the invigorating feeling of the wind racing past your face, being totally exposed to the elements, feeling the road and the two-wheeled machine beneath you. Even the risk, in some ways, seems to heighten the enjoyment.

When given the chance to take on the road with an adventure partner on the back of a powerful motorbike, I leapt at the opportunity. Our country is the perfect place to spend time on a ’bike.

On-road or off the beaten track, there are limitless routes to explore and on which to get lost. Having done most of my travelling on four wheels in the past, I wanted a different experience, and approached a good friend (and adventure biker extraordinaire) to help me.

Having ridden pillion with him a few times, I trusted him with my life; but, this time I wanted to get adventurous and attempt some off-road tracks too.

We contacted Cape Bike Travel, who have been specialising in making personalised motorbike holiday dreams come true since 2005, and rented the beautiful BMW R1200GS – a German that oozes grace, manners, and presence – for a few days.

Naturally, we were both quite apprehensive at first; not so much owing to the distance, but rather because of the rugged gravel roads and unknown terrain we wanted to explore.

Riding off-road with a passenger was not something either of us had done before. Our apprehension, however, eased in no time as the big adventure bike quickly bestowed confidence in both rider and passenger, and provided absolute all-day comfort.

The BMW R1200GS is quite a hefty off-road beast (weighing 244 kg road-ready) and its size is better suited to a tall and robust rider (hence my pillion status on this trip).

Powered by BMW’s legendary two-cylinder boxer engine of 1 170cc with four valves per cylinder (delivering 92kW at 7 750rpm and 125Nm of torque at 6 500rpm) this dual sport motorcycle is credited with actually creating ’bike adventure touring.

It is the same model (but the Adventure derivative) used by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman for their epic motorcycle road trip documentary, **The Long Way Down** from John o’Groats in Scotland to Cape Agulhas in South Africa.

Despite its bulky size, the GS is a very manoeuvrable machine, and has surprisingly sporty and agile handling. Telelever front suspension eliminates brake dive, which helps to avoid upsetting the passenger, and the shaft drive keeps things smooth on road.

Its wide handlebars and tall, comfortable riding position makes it easy to control, and we were both pleasantly surprised at how easily it was able to navigate the roads **en route** with confidence.

This dual purpose machine was an absolute pleasure on tar. The power comes in gently and sustained, and there are no jolty surprises – making it perfect for two passengers, with minimal helmet bumping. With very good wind protection from the ’bike, we could reach speeds way beyond the speed limit, and the soft seats meant there were no buttock grumbles, so we could easily ride for three hours at a time without stopping.

Gravel was no problem either, especially the bigger (and smoother) roads that cars frequent. However, we did encounter slight snags on less-used single lane pathways in the Cederberg.

While some riders use this beast for serious off-road work, especially in Adventure form, we found the elements that add to the comfort of the bike were somewhat of a hindrance on more rugged terrain. Its weight and plush ride makes it comfortable, but less weight and longer suspension travel would have been preferable in those type of conditions.

Still, on regional dirt roads such as the R364, and some of its more frequently used tributaries, it handled the gravel with grace and aplomb. As far as adventure bike travel is concerned, you will hardly find a better motorcycle. It can go virtually anywhere, and it is the ideal machine on which to travel when accompanied by an inexperienced passenger.

If you are thinking of purchasing a bike to be able to share experiences on it with a significant other, this is the bike for you. It is safe, has excellent ABS and traction control, and its modern, computerised suspension is designed for extreme comfort.

It is pretty darn sexy too – the perfect bike with which to show up at a classy five-star luxury resort, such as Bushmans Kloof in the Cedar Mountains.

Renting a GS from Cape Bike Travel entails a pretty hefty price tag; but, in my opinion, it is a worthwhile investment, as this is the ultimate dream machine for an adventure bike experience.